Is Netflix finally cracking down on password sharing?

12 Mar 2021

Image: © diy13/Stock.adobe.com

Netflix may be trying to stop users from sharing passwords with a new pop-up alert – but it is only testing this feature for now.

In what could be bad news for a lot of users, streaming giant Netflix is testing a new feature that could help it crack down on password sharing.

As first reported by the Streamable, some users have received alerts on the Netflix TV app asking them to confirm if they are authorised to watch Netflix on that account. “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching,” the prompt says.

Users are then directed to verify that they have access with a text or email code sent to the account holder.

Netflix has confirmed that it is rolling out the feature to a number of users. “This test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorised to do so,” a spokesperson for the company said.

Netflix’s terms of use say that subscribers can view content for personal use but that it “may not be shared with individuals beyond your household”.

“During your Netflix membership we grant you a limited, non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access the Netflix service and view Netflix content,” it adds.

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But Netflix hasn’t done much to crack down on password sharing in the past. The platform does limit simultaneous streaming, with a €7.99 basic account letting you stream on one device at a time, a €12.99 standard account allowing for streaming on two devices at the same time, and a €17.99 premium account allowing for up to four devices.

However, Netflix doesn’t limit the number of devices that can log into a single account, meaning many people could share a password and simply view content on different devices at different times.

Around one-third of subscribers to services such as Netflix share their password with someone outside their household, according to a recent survey from market research company Magid.

What’s next?

While Netflix users around the world may have been taken aback by news of this feature, it is only a trial and may not be rolled out in a larger crackdown on password sharing. There is a possibility that a feature such as this could also be applied for security purposes, to deal with issues of breaches or fraud.

It’s not the first time that Netflix has raised the topic of password sharing. In 2019, the company’s chief product officer Greg Peters said it was something the company was monitoring and looking at ways to enforce. But he said it had no “big plans to announce at this time in terms of doing something differently there”.

The pandemic has certainly provided a boost to Netflix’s business in the past year, with people around the world staying home and looking to streaming services for entertainment. In 2020, Netflix surpassed 200m subscribers and brought in nearly $25bn in revenue.

However, the company is also facing ever-increasing competition in the streaming market, which may be why it’s finally considering cracking down on password sharing. Disney+ has reached 100m paid subscribers in the 16 months since it launched, while Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, HBO Max and more are also looking for a piece of the pie.

Sarah Harford is sub-editor of Silicon Republic

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